Brigham Young University’s employees should be a cheerful, empathetic example to students, a leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints told the university’s faculty and staff Monday.

“You have more than a job,” Dale G. Renlund, a member of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, told them from a pulpit in the Marriott Center. “You are fulfilling one of the important purposes of the gathering of Israel.”

Renlund and BYU President Kevin Worthen addressed the university’s employees Monday morning as the kickoff to BYU’s annual University Conference. Students will return to campus for the beginning of the fall semester next week.

Renlund said it is the university’s responsibility to help students gain intelligence and knowledge that they will bring beyond their lifetime.

He warned employees against being cynical, skeptical or sowing the seeds of doubt among students. He said no student should be uncertain if an employee is devoted to Christ, the church or the church’s leaders.

Renlund used the example of a laser being shone through a lens, stating that if the laser hits the center, it will hit its target, but if it hits at an angle, it is refracted farther away from the target.

“Like the light and the lens of your attitude, your speech and your empathy create a being that can center on the savior or miss the master altogether,” Renlund said.

The Marriott Center went dark for another analogy as he shone both a pen light and a laser pointer to illustrate how a concentrated light will be visible at a larger distance.

Renlund said students will benefit from even short encounters with faculty and staff.

“Your God-given task is to convey that culture,” Renlund said. “It is more than a job.”

Worthen occasionally fought off tears as he outlined the university’s mission statement, which reads that a BYU education should help students strengthen family life, social relationships, civic duty and lead to lives of life-long service.

He laid out a challenge to focus on students and not just tasks.

Worthen said helping students develop Christlike attributes doesn’t always have to involve scripture study before an assignment, and that modeling behavior will help prepare students to make a difference in the world.

“They will have a deep seated desire to do so, as those around them are also sons and daughters of God,” Worthen said. “That is something the world not only wants, but desperately needs.”

He pointed to examples of dining services and a group of students who went to Mongolia to help improve air pollution to explain the campus’s culture and impact.

Worthen said the point of BYU isn’t solely to prepare students for their first and last jobs, but to provide a holistic education.

“In the end, we are not preparing students for jobs, we are preparing them for their eternal destiny as sons and daughters of heavenly parents,” Worthen said.

Braley Dodson covers health and education for the Daily Herald.

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